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One Big Party?


Its a Party...
...but not the kind with ice cream and cake. A political party is an
organized group of people who share similar political views and
work to influence the government in support of those views.
Political views are a persons ideas about how the government
should run and how the issues facing our country should be solved.
Political parties fight to gain political power by having candidates
elected to office. They exist at every level of government, from the
national level to your very own neighborhood. By organizing into
political parties, people have more power to influence government
than if they acted alone.



How Many Parties Are There?













United States


That depends on the country you live in. Some countries have no
political parties at all. Most of these countries, such as Qatar
and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, are not democracies, and
citizens have limited influence on the government.
A few countries, such as China, Vietnam, and North Korea, have a
single-party system with one major political party. These
countries are under very strict rule that gives citizens little or no
say in government. They are not democracies, and it is usually
illegal to oppose the main political party.
The United States and some other countries have a two-party
system with two major political parties that hold all the power.
Other parties exist, and they sometimes gain enough support to
win an election, but this is rare. This is the least common system
around the world.

Source: CIA World Factbook 2011

Most countries have multi-party systems where three or more

political parties share power. Some parties may have more
influence than others, but there are always more than two parties
with members elected to government office. Most European
countries, and many others countries around the world such as
Mexico, Australia, and Japan, have multi-party systems.

The Party Platform

One thing political parties have in common is that they stand for something. If
you want to know what a party believes, read its platformthe set of
statements describing the partys views on all the major issues facing the
nation. This set of statements is called a platform because it is the set of
beliefs the political party stands on.
In the U.S., the two major political parties are Democrats and Republicans.
They keep their platforms broad and simple to attract as many supporters as
possible. At first, it can be hard to tell the difference on some issues. Both
parties might say they want better education or more jobs, but what does that
mean? The partys platform explains what that party thinks better education
looks like and how the jobs should be created. You can find a political partys
platform by going to the partys website.
Reading p.1

One Big Party?


Political Parties Support Candidates

In the U.S., youll be most aware of political parties during an election season.
Candidates who are running for political office almost always declare
themselves a member of a political party. By doing this, a candidate gains
support from the political party and makes it easier for voters to figure out
what the candidate believes in.

At the same time, political parties fight hard to get candidates from their party
elected. Every four years, the national committees for the two major parties
must nominate candidates to run for President and Vice-President. At the state
level, state committees push to support candidates for the U.S. Senate and the
House of Representatives, as well as for the states own legislature. Political
parties also have local branches that work on behalf of candidates for offices at
the county and city levels.
Political parties donate lots of

money to help their candidates.

Political Parties Work Inside Government

Candidates who are elected to office work to pass laws and solve problems. What
laws get passed and how problems are solved depends on the governments
public policythe stand the government takes about how issues should be
handled. What stand does the government take? That depends on which political
party has the most power. The majority partythe one with the most elected
memberscan most easily influence laws and policy by getting all its members to
vote the same way on a bill. This isnt always easy, though, because members of
one political party dont necessarily agree on all the issues. But in American
politics, its common for most lawmakers from one party to vote the same way
when deciding whether to pass a law.
Meanwhile, the minority party works to promote the views of its supporters by
forcing compromise with the majority party. If the minority party is successful, this
can create laws that are balanced between the two parties viewpoints.

Political Parties Influence Voters

During elections, political parties also try to influence voters by distributing
information about candidates and issues. Next time you see a campaign ad on
television, look closely at the fine print at the bottom and you might see that a
political party has funded the ad. But beware: All the information a political party
distributes is biased toward its own views. That means information from political
parties should not be your only source of information about candidates and issues.

Joining a Political Party

Your first personal experience with political parties might be when you turn 18 and
register to vote. Voter registration applications usually let you check a box to join
a political party. Joining a political party isnt a requirement, and even if you check
a box you can still vote for anyone you want. During a presidential election, in
many states joining a political party lets you participate in that states primary
election or caucus to help decide who your partys presidential candidate will be.
Some states let you participate even if you dont belong to a party.
Reading p.2